The Road Ahead for Recycling

My Friends:

We have some great challenges and opportunities ahead in 2013 that I need to share with you, but first I want to recap some of the highlights of the just completed 2011-12 legislative session - one of our most successful with a great deal to be proud of:

  • Launched free and convenient recycling programs for used paint and carpets
  • Successfully blocked corporate green-washing in the legislature and in the marketplace - products with false and misleading environmental claims
    have literally been pulled from the shelves!
  • Developed market-based incentives to drive the expansion of California’s manufacturing infrastructure and jobs for recycled plastic and tires.
  • Under our nation-leading Bottle & Can Recycling law a record 16.7 billion beverage containers were recycled last year.

And most significantly:
This past July, the opportunity to recycle was finally extended to virtually every California apartment building, school and business! This was a multi-year campaign, but thanks to your support, and the leadership of Assemblymember Wes Chesbro, California now has in place the nation’s most ambitious pollution prevention and recycling policy in the nation —75% by 2020! We are on track to recycle and compost an additional 22 million tons of waste per year by 2020.

So What’s Next?

The recent elections have created an opportunity for bold action. We know that simply diverting waste from disposal is only half the battle. It’s time to think (and act) bigger and bolder!

The extraction and processing of the planet’s virgin material resources to make increasingly single use, litter-prone and disposable products and packaging results in the generation of massive pollution and waste long before they make it to the landfill or even the recycling bin.

When we reduce packaging and waste and make things from recycled materials, we substantially reduce the pollution, energy and waste associated with manufacturing.

To take on these Big Picture issues, CAW has put forward a bold vision for conserving resources and reducing pollution and waste.

Waste Not California! is the plan we have put forward to help continue California’s transformation to sustainable economy. This is more than simply a laundry list of problems and solutions. Based on California’s 30 plus years of recycling policy success—success that you have helped us achieve—we can demonstrate with real data that our existing investments and commitments to a recycling society have done substantially more than reduce pollution and waste. Our efforts have resulted in green jobs, economic expansion, and lower costs for ratepayers.

For 2013, we are proposing to build on our proven track record of success by targeting problem waste materials and waste generators and putting forward solutions that combine consumer convenience and opportunity to recycle, with market-based incentives for manufacturers and businesses to design for recycling and the use of recycled materials. Those that don’t adapt will be forced out of the marketplace.

Plastic Bags.
Just 7 years ago, California was being swamped with plastic bags. Today,
thanks to CAW success in the courts and at the local level, single-use
plastic grocery bag pollution has been reduced by 53%. We’re half-way there.
Now it’s time for the State Legislature to phase out single-use plastic
grocery bags once and for all!


Plastic Bottles.
The recycling rate for the nine billion plastic bottles covered by a CRV is 75%. Additional market-based incentives have increased in-state processing, manufacturing and jobs for recycled plastic. But most of the 6 billion plastic bottles and containers that are not part of the program continue to be littered and landfilled. It’s time to expand the Bottle Bill to recycle all plastic containers!

Fast Food Packaging.
Virtually every California household now has access to convenient curbside
recycling. But most fast-food packaging, including polystyrene, poly-coated
paper, PVC and other multi-layer packaging remains a contaminant in that
system and effectively ‘non-recyclable’. And because these materials are
littered or simply blow from garbage trucks and landfills, they are a growing
source of marine pollution. It’s time to set aggressive waste reduction
and recycling goals for the Fast Food sector, while prohibiting packaging
that is incompatible with our recycling and composting infrastructure.

E-waste 2.0.
In 2003, California led the nation in enacting the first E-waste Recycling
Policy on TVs and computer monitors. Today California continues to lead the
nation recycling 100,000 tons of these devices annually. But in the last
decade, the spectrum of toxic electronics grown and only become increasingly
short-lived. It’s time to upgrade California’s successful E-waste to
require manufacturers to ensure convenient recycling of all toxic

Mattress Recycling.
On the last night of the legislative session, CAW came within 13 minutes of
passing the nation’s first Mattress Manufacturer Recycling law. We got beat
by the clock, not the opposition, and in 2013, we will be back with our
Producer Responsibility policy to make mattress recycling convenient and


Food Waste.
California disposes of more than 6 million tons of foodwaste annually, and
this is the largest source of methane—a potent greenhouse gas—from landfills.
And while households contribute a portion of this, half is generated by the
commercial sector (food processors, grocery stores, restaurants, etc). CAW
has crafted a comprehensive policy for reducing and recovering the organic
fraction of the waste stream. Through increased composting and energy
recovery, we can turn this ‘waste’ into an environmental and financial asset
for California agriculture and the state. It’s time to stop landfilling
food scraps and yard trimmings and feed the soils that feed us!

This is an ambitious agenda. But recently enacted political reforms have opened a window whereby a new generation of policy makers in Sacramento appear ready to set aside ‘politics as usual’, and embrace a thoughtful and reasonable package of policies aimed at both reducing pollution and waste, while simultaneous growing the state’s green economy.

But in order to make this happen we need your help. We need your letters. We need your phone calls. And we need your continued financial support. We have a very experienced team of policy leaders, researchers and political organizers in place. But we are facing opponents—primarily in the plastics and chemical sector—that have demonstrated their willingness to do, say, and spend whatever it takes to spin falsehoods and confusion about the environmental impacts of their products.

Going into 2013, we need to know we will have the resources to get our message out to policy makers, the public, and to you if we are going to be successful in countering the Campaigns of Misinformation.

I hope we can count on you to support our work and make the most generous contribution you are able to. This is the time to make a tax-deductible contribution to support the research and education work of Californians gainst Waste Foundation.

With your help, I hope to be writing again soon with more good news! Thank you once again for your continued support of recycling and CAW.


Mark Murray
Executive Director

P.S. – When you contribute to CAW you help keep California's recycling revolution moving forward. We've accomplished a great deal with your support in the past. I hope to hear from you again soon.